A cation channel NCA/UNC-79/UNC-80 affects neuronal activity. We report here the identification of a conserved endoplasmic reticulum protein NLF-1 (NCA localization factor-1) that regulates neuronal excitability and locomotion through the NCA channel. In C. elegans, the loss of either NLF-1 or NCA leads to a reduced sodium leak current, and a hyperpolarized resting membrane potential in premotor interneurons. This results in a decreased premotor interneuron activity that reduces the initiation and sustainability of rhythmic locomotion. NLF-1 promotes axonal localization of all NCA reporters. Its mouse homolog mNLF-1 functionally substitutes for NLF-1 in C. elegans, interacts with the mammalian sodium leak channel NALCN in vitro, and potentiates sodium leak currents in primary cortical neuron cultures. Taken together, an ER protein NLF-1 delivers a sodium leak channel to maintain neuronal excitability and potentiates a premotor interneuron network critical for C. elegans rhythmic locomotion.
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